Toronto and Ontario Laws on Snow Removal

Here in Toronto we get lots of snow in the winter. The City of Toronto has heavy equipment such as snow plows that remove the snow from the road and sidewalk. They do an excellent job. Citizens of Toronto also remove snow from their private driveways and the sidewalk. Unfortunately some citizens think it is Ok to simply dump their snow into the street, which creates a hazard to their neighbours and others that use the street. Not only is it very unfriendly to neighbours, it is also illegal.

Snow needs to be removed from your driveway, usually as quickly as possible. While you will be able to drive your car over it if the snow is below 10cm, an unexpected weather change can turn the fluffy stuff into rock hard ice. The snow thaws when the temperature rises. When the temperature then falls the watery snow turns to ice. This ice is difficult to melt and remove and can remain on your driveway for months. Ice is a tripping hazard. The best thing to do is to move your snow to the side of your driveway as quickly as possible. You can shovel snow manually, use a machine such as a snow blower or pay someone to do this for you. Shoveling snow is heavy work and hard on your back, so take care and properly use your legs to lift the snow. Many older people have died from a heart attack while shoveling snow.

What you should not do is shovel your snow onto the street. This is illegal.

Highway Traffic Act
R.S.O. 1990, CHAPTER H.8, Section X

Deposit of snow on roadway

181. No person shall deposit snow or ice on a roadway without permission in writing so to do from the Ministry or the road authority responsible for the maintenance of the road. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 181.

Supplementing this is this Toronto bylaw:

Toronto Municipal code Chapter 719
§ 719-5. Moving snow onto streets.

No property owner, occupant or other person shall move or permit to be moved snow or
ice from private property onto a highway, sidewalk or lane way.

Home and property owners also need to remove snow from their sidewalk within 12 hours. Sidewalks are walkways beside the road on both sides of the street. Slippery sidewalks are dangerous for kids and the elderly. Here in Toronto the city has sidewalk plows but they are quite busy and may not be able to plow your sidewalk within 12 hours. Sometimes it can take them 2 days to arrive. The snow can freeze and turn to ice, causing a tripping hazard.

§ 719-3. Removal from sidewalks by city; recovery of costs.

A. Where snow and ice resulting from any fall of snow, rain or hail has not been re-
moved from a sidewalk situated on a highway in front of, alongside or at the rear of
any occupied or unoccupied building or vacant lot, within 12 hours after the fall of
snow, rain or hail has ceased, the Commissioner of Works and Emergency Services
or a person appointed by the Commissioner may, at the expense of the owner of the
building or vacant lot, clear away and remove the snow and ice, including the re-
mediation of any slippery sidewalk.

I have always thought it was my civic duty to remove snow from my sidewalk, but understand why the bylaw exists. If citizens would be more helpful to each other, each doing their part, the city would function much better.

01/29/2015: It snowed. Now who has to do the shovelling?

16 thoughts on “Toronto and Ontario Laws on Snow Removal

  1. pamzuzu

    Personally as an immigrant, I was not used about snow and the consequences of it. The government must to regulate this facts, if not people do not care much about their neighbors so it is good, that there are rules to follow and avoid future troubles.

  2. max

    How friggn convenient for the city to call it “our sidewalk” when we can’t park on it if it transects our driveway!!! These city idiots need to come by with dump trucks and remove the snow. Its not the homeowners responsibility!!!

    [Don: This is a common complaint against the city, but the city sees it as your civic and legal duty to maintain in front of your house, even if they own it. You may also be responsible for slip and fall injuries that occur in front of your house. For home owners this contradiction is the stark reality of living in Toronto.]

  3. william peeling

    I do not know why people are not made responsible for clearing snow off there
    sidewalk. They should be fined every time they do not, like a parking ticket.The City could make a lot of revenue and make the city safer for walking on sidewalks.
    Can anything be done about this?
    Why can’t the parking authority give tickets out while there on the street for parking infractions?

  4. Don Mahur

    Where do you go to complain about a corner apartment house that does not clear the snow from its sidewalks and also has its down spouts expelling water on the sidewalk, which of course in the winter turns into ice (also not cleared).

    [Don: For the City of Toronto, call 311 and file a complaint. You can also file a 311 complaint online. The 311 number is surprisingly efficient. Some neighbours are terrible and need a city inspector to give them a visit. One of my neighbours uses a snow blower to throw snow into the middle of the street. I was driving by and he hit my car.

    Thanks for visiting.]

  5. Kenrick

    Talk about it. The City of Toronto should increase their fines or offer subsidized snow removal services if the homeonwners need it. Most of these homeowners throw the snow on the sidewalk and cause a great deal of inconvenience to passers-by. But guess what, their driveways are spick and span for them to park their gas guzzling SUVs. $125 fine seems to meagre to deter homeowners from throwing snow onto the sidewalk. Especially in areas where it is most frequented. The fine should be minimum $2,000 because if someone slides onto the traffic or breaks a bone, the costs and lost income for the victim is a lot. If smoking in a non-smoking zone brings a minimum $1,000 fine, then a homeowner who deliberately throws snow from the driveway onto the sidewalk should be charged for indirect assault to life and person and fined at least $2,000.

  6. The Viking

    Actually the fine in Toronto is $350.00 for moving snow from private property onto public property. I know this because I was given this ticket when I pulled the snow out of a driveway, onto the road, and then pushed it up onto the boulevard (lawn section in front of the property between the sidewalk and the road) The snow was on the lawn, but this area is city property, but so is most of your front lawn!

    [Don: I am really surprised that you got a ticket for putting snow on the boulevard. This makes no sense to me, and the city would have to ticket my whole neighbourhood. We all do it, as it would be very troublesome to move this snow to your front lawn.

    The snow removal services do this all the time: scrape snow backward from the garage onto the street, then plow it up onto the grassy areas of the boulevard. Apart from keeping the storm drain clear, I see no other issues.]

  7. Loyd

    “By law, the snow and ice are the legal responsibility of the municipality, not the adjacent property owner.”

    Cities maintaining roads but not sidewalks are clearly spending tax resources only on one group of residents – motorists. People who cannot afford or choose not to use motorized vehicles, are paying same property tax rates, but are discriminated, even though they spend less city resources, like policing, parking, fire fighting, etc. Also pollute less.

    This issue should be addressed by parliament and make it absolutely clear in provincial regulations, because adjacent sidewalks are not specifically defined and regulated then cities in their ongoing effort to make more and work less, create arguable bylaws shifting their responsibility to their residents.

  8. Sheila Duncan

    Is it illegal for a person to remove the snow from their driveway and pile it across the road in front of my home and on my boulevard?

    [Don: Hi Sheila. Your neighbour across the street must have a snow removal service that does this using a snowplow and truck. This practice is also common in my neighbourhood. You should call Toronto’s 311 help line and ask them. Filing a complaint, which is anonymous, might stop the practice. Many city bylaws are unenforced unless someone calls.

    Note that while you are responsible to shovel the city owned sidewalk and maintain the grass on the boulevard in front of your house, this small area is still city property and you technically do not own it.]

  9. Su

    Thank you for this informative post. I am pretty conscientious about clearing snow from the sidewalk in front of my house and keeping my own pathways and driveway clear as well. I make sure to shovel the snow either to the sides of my driveway or onto the front of my property; unfortunately with all of the snow accumulation a large drift ends up in the curb way at the front of my property, and this happens with all the other properties in the street, because we all run out of places to put the stuff. I, like most of my neighbours, help out by shovelling the sidewalks for my immediate neighbour and they do the same for me, depending on who gets out there first.

    My question is this, and I’ve already contacted 3-1-1 about it and its a civl matter. My one set of neighbors for some reason decided from the time I took over my property and started looking after it that they don’t like me. So for practically every thing I have the right to do in terms of maintaining my property, and for which I show them the duty of care I’m obliged to show them, they perform deliberately retaliatory and unpleasant actions which negatively impact upon my and my property.

    In the beginning I attempted to communicate, either in person, or in writing. This ended up escalating to involving police when one of these people was practically attacking my contractors, which they had been fully notified about coming to do work for me. After that they continued with their on again, off again retaliation. They seem to think they are the “property kings” and that they can do whatever/whenever/however and to he** with how or if it affects the neighbour and their property (in this case, me).

    They have soured things to the point where I simply decided not to have anything to do with them and to keep a really close eye on what’s going on, checking my property, especially on that side, daily. As a single female homeowner living on my own, I simply don’t have the time of day for people like this.

    One of the actions these people seem to delight in involves dumping in the narrow strip of land that lies between our properties, and which is supposedly shared.

    The dumping includes huge piles of snow, which creates a hazardous obstruction and buries one or more of the vents which come out of my property on that side, and bars access not only to those vents but also to the gas metre.

    My response now? I simply “re-gift”. I regularly clear a pathway in what I call “the narrows” so that snow is on either side (theirs and mine) but such that it does not fall onto their driveway and still provides the access required so that I can ensure the vents and all that are ok, not to mention providing access for the gas metre reader.

    I am careful not to allow any snow (or anything else, for that matter) fall onto their property because I know what the reaction would be: retaliation of some kind.

    I do have a letter prepared, as advised by legal counsel, addressing all the various transgressions and trespasses but have been holding off sending it for the time being.

    Quite frankly, its my property, I have the right to look after it however I see fit, and I don’t do anything (nor have I) that negatively impacts upon these people. They refuse to speak to me about any of it, I’ve contacted them on various occasions and also involved police, but they seem to think they can carry on. My quiet response is to deal with things as I see fit, and if that includes shoving their snow piles off my property over onto their side, so be it. Also so be it if some of that snow happens to fall into their driveway.

    This long story is to ask this one question: Does this sort of snow dumping activity, and the hazardous obstruction it causes, constitute a City of Toronto property standard infraction? Aren’t people supposed to be keeping their pathways and lane ways, in addition to their sidewalks and etc., clear of snow and debris? I’m aware that this activity by the neighbour already constitutes trespassing under the Trespass Act, and that I have the right to peaceful and quiet enjoyment without fear of retaliation or harassment.

    I’d be interested in seeing what you can find and post here, and what your (and anyone else’s) feedback might be.

    I simply won’t tolerate this sort of malicious rubbish from people. If they want to behave that way, I’ll deal with it the way that I have to (and have already been doing); its to their detriiment, so far as I understand, to have created and exacerbated this sort of situation when there’s actually no need for behaving in such an unreasonable, vindictive fashion.

    Sorry this is so long. Had to provide proper background.

    [Hi Su, As far as I can research, laneways in the City of Toronto are considered private property and are therefore Toronto bylaws are not applicable. You will need to pursue this as a civil matter. A web cam to film your neighbour’s transgressions would be helpful in court. Still, you are somewhat “married” to your neighbour, who can be malicious in other ways. This is a difficult situation, for sure. I would consult a lawyer for further steps. Document and photograph all transgressions, as this will help in court. Good luck, Don]

  10. darryl whiteway

    I have been shovelling my driveway and been piling the snow agaisnt the brick of a garage of my neibour. He has now shovelled the snow away from his garage back onto my driveway. it is on the side of the garage. Is this allowable.

  11. Bruce

    Let’s hope for warmer weather and the end of these snow issues!

    Regarding the boulevard, it is the city’s for the purpose of doing their work, and granting other service workers access to it. Also it’s there in case they decide to widen the streets one day. But *that* doesn’t mean that neighbors have the right to move their snow onto it. They city perhaps can but they they can’t. Private dumping is not permitted on city property for that matter.

    And some common consideration should be in play because whether the boulevard is technically private or not, I am required to treat it like mine, maintain it and the expense will be mine if it needs repair. So be considerate people.

    Thank you.

  12. Kris

    Since sidewalk is a city property and do not belong to property owner I do not understand why should I clean it or be responsible for it in case of injury.
    I never clean my driveway, I have a 4×4 and enjoy deep snow.

    [Don: Hi Kris. There is a contradiction here, as you have pointed out: The City owns the sidewalk but you must ensure it is clear after a snowfall. If you have bought or rent a house you are legally obliged to remove the snow from the sidewalk after a snowfall. If one of your neighbours does complain you might get a bylaw officer visiting you, and if found guilty you will get a ticket. Unpaid tickets are added to your property tax bill.]

  13. Kris

    Thank you for your answer. What happens if I am out of the city or Country for some time.

    [Don: Hi Kris. If you are away for an extended period of time and your neighbours do not file a complaint to the city, and it snows, then nothing might happen. If someone falls and hurts themselves in front of your house then you might be sued. If a neighbour files a complaint a bylaw officer will visit your house, give you notice, and then possibly give you a fine of ~$100CAD, which you can pay or it will be added to your tax bill. The City might also clear your sidewalk and bill you for this work.

    This all assumes you do not live in Scarborough or North York, where the City also clears the sidewalks, after the roads.

    If you are away, get someone, a friend or neighbour, to clear your sidewalk, or pay someone to do this.]

  14. C

    What is the law in regards to your neighbour shovelling snow onto your walkway or parking space area?

  15. Su

    Hi Don
    Thanks for response re the snow and other issues with my neighbour. I continue to try to ignore them, however they are now on the 2nd episode of a by-law infraction. This one is to do with downspouts being extended and hung over to empty onto the driveway. The 1st episode was similar but emptying into my eavestroughs. First was reported to and dealt with by the bylaw people and it took a long time. The 2nd one is currently in play, has been reported, however because I will not allow these people to continue taking liberties, I repositioned the extension onto their retaining wall and so that it will empty onto their driveway. A couple of times it was put back where next door wanted it, however I’ve continued to move it because, since I refuse to have anything to do with them and they are completely disrespectful of me and my property, its come down to actions speaking louder than words. The “game” now is the position of the extension, which I keep moving over to empty onto their driveway/property rather than onto mine. This latest incident precipitated me sending them a letter, with a chart outlining their transgressions over the past nearly 2 years, by registered mail. This was done on the advice of legal counsel and the police, with a copy also going to the police. When I checked the tracking record in Canada Post’s website, I learned that the letter had been refused by the recipient and is being sent back to me. I have had a conversation with the police but have now left the constable a message. He seems to want to push for conflict resolution, however, I’m being harrassed and my personal and property rights are being infringed upon. So I’ve expressed that I’m done talking/debating/discussing etc. and I want a decisive, practical, meaningful solution to put a stop to these people’s willful and malicious actions. Who knows what they’ll come up with next. They could do and/or say anything (its been going on for 3 years).
    So, what is your feedback on this latest incident and the refusal to accept the letter, which essentially quotes Trespass to Property act and other infringements on my rights, and tells them to cease and desist. I am waiting for the police to call me back (this means I have to wait over the weekend), and have to be even more watchful. Yes, getting surveillance cams is a possibility, however I don’t have a clue about them except they exist and there are many types. I don’t even know where to go for assistance in choosing, installing, and making sure they’re operating properly. I’m guessing anything could happen now and I’d best be prepared, but who needs it! I have treated it with caution due to the nature of the one individual in particular, however, like I said, I’m done. I’ve been very patient and tolerant. If the police won’t lay mischief charges, they’ve said I can lay a charge but I’m not clear on what that really means and what I’d have to go through to get this stopped altogether, which is what I want. Any knowledge on these particular little gems??!!

    [Don: I think you have done all the steps you can to civilly solve this problem. You will need a lawyer.]

  16. Zach

    While many are complaining about their neighbors who clear snow unto the driveway or others’ boulevard. My freaking tiny home is built with a garage (door-to-door) next to my neighbors with no boulevard at all, no, not even 12 inches of space. I was told by the neighbors to clear the snow unto the road. The lady live behind me (where my garage faces) is going to die of heart attack if I don’t find a better solution. Can I sue the home builder?

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